Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Eye Candy: Kellan Lutz in The Legend of Hercules

6'1" Kellan Christopher Lutz was born in 1985 in Dickinson, North Dakota.

Lutz modelled as a teenager and his first acting role was in a 2004 episode of The Bold and the Beautiful.  His "big break" came in 2008 when he was cast in the Twilight film series.

Hercules was not Lutz' first sword and sandal outing.  He played Poseidon in Tarsem Singh's Immortals (2011).

Lutz is now well-known as a Calvin Klein underwear model.  He certainly has the body of a god even if he doesn't look remotely Greek.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Legend of Hercules (2014)

The Legend of Hercules was released on January 10, 2014.  Directed by Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger), the film tells the story of Hercules (Kellan Lutz) from birth to young adulthood. 

The film is set in 1200 BCE and opens in Argos where King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins) proves his prowess in battle.  Amphitryon is portrayed as a cold, arrogant man.

While Amphitryon is off celebrating his victory, his wife, Alcmene (Roxanne McKee), is visited by Zeus in the form of a ray of light.  Alcmene is impregnated and gives birth to Hercules.

Amphitryon doesn't quite know what's gone on but he's reasonably sure that Hercules is not his son.  Later, a second son, Iphicles (Liam Garrigan), is born and becomes the favourite.  Iphicles is not a skilled warrior and he grows up jealous of his elder brother.  Iphicles is also covetous of Hebe (Gaia Weiss), Hercules' main squeeze.

We see the brothers in battle against the Nemean Lion.  Hercules defeats the creature and saves Iphicles' life but Iphicles takes credit for the deed, earning praise from Amphitryon.  Amphitryon and Hebe's father have made a deal and Hebe has been promised to Iphicles as his wife.  Hercules is sent off to fight a war in Egypt with Sotiris (Liam McIntyre, with a really bad haircut).

In Egypt, Hercules and Sotiris find they have been betrayed.  Amphitryon has made a deal with the Egyptians who are supposed to kill Hercules.  Our hero and Sotiris survive and give false names, telling the Egyptians that Hercules is amongst the dead soldiers.

Hercules and Sotiris are sold into slavery and become gladitators for a man called Lucius (Kenneth Cranham).  They save each other's lives and become the best of friends.

Back in Greece, Alcmene, thinking Hercules has been killed, confesses to Amphitryon that Zeus was Hercules' father.  In a jealous rage, Amphitryon murders his wife.

Meanwhile, Hercules and Sotiris have become gladiatorial stars, winning great acclaim for Lucius.  They convince the slave owner to take them back to Greece so they can compete in the greatest games ever.  If they survive, they will win their freedom (I found it amusing that Liam McIntyre's costume covered his pecs so as not to compete with the star).

The brothers in arms win their freedom and Sotiris is reunited with his family, and Hercules with Hebe.

Iphicles discovers his brother is alive and captures him.  Hercules is displayed publically in chains in an homage to Hercules Unchained.

Hercules calls on his father for help and Zeus imbues his son with the strength to set himself free.  

 Hercules defeats Iphicles and Amphitryon and a legend is born.

This film is nothing new but it's entertaining enough.  Kellan Lutz is certainly perfectly cast in the sword and sandal genre.  I found many of the design elements were more Roman than Greek.  Certainly, the architecture was of a much later period than 1200 BCE.  The gladiatorial plot elements and the Egyptian stuff were also historically anachronistic.

The film is available in various formats inclduing 3D and 2D Blu-ray and DVD.  It did poorly with critics and audiences alike so there's little hope for a sequel.  It was also pitted against Brett Ratner's Hercules (2014) featuring Dwayne Johnson -- a film which had more buzz from the beginning.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Electra (1962)

Electra was released on December 1, 1962 in the USA.  Based on the play by Euripides, Electra is the first installment in Mihalis Kakogiannis' Greek Tragedy Trilogy, followed by The Trojan Women (1971) and Iphigenia (1977).  It was nominated for the 1963 best foreign language film Oscar and also for the Palme d'Or at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival.  At Cannes, Kakogiannis won the award for best cinematic transposition and also a special technical achievement prize.

The film opens with Agamemon returning triumphantly from Troy.  In a beautiful, dialogue-free sequence, Agamemnon greets his children and then is murdered by his queen, Clytemnestra, and her lover.  Prince Orestes manages to escape but Princess Electra is kept locked away until she is of marrying age and then Clytemnestra marries her off to a poor, old farmer.  The people are saddened and outraged.  Their princess should have been married to royalty.

Electra is fortunate to find that her new husband is a loyal and caring man.  He demands nothing from her and she repays him by working with the other women on the farm.  The women take Electra to her father's grave and there, she prays to him and asks the gods to bring her brother, Orestes, home to avenge her father.

Electra's prayers are soon answered.  Orestes returns.  The siblings have been separated so long that they do not recognize one another.  The truth is finally brought out by an old man who once tutored both Agamemnon and Orestes.  Even blind, the man recognizes Orestes.  The siblings rejoice and begin a plot for vengeance.

Orestes kills his mother's lover while he is drunk at a festival in honour of Bacchus.  They lure Clytemnestra from her palace by sending word that Electra has given birth to her own child and kill her as well.  Clytemnestra is given the opportunity to explain herself and she says the root of all this evil is that Agamemnon had her first daughter, Iphigenia, sacrificed before heading to Troy.  Though Electra can sympathize she still wants vengeance for what Clytemnestra has done to her and Orestes.

The film ends with what is really the beginning of the great Orestian tragedy.  Now Orestes must be haunted by the gods and himself for committing matricide.

The film is beautifully photographed by Walter Lassally.  90% of it is shot outdoors in the stark, rocky Greek countryside.  This really gives the film a haunted feeling.  The score by Mikis Theodorakis is very unusual and memorable.

The cast, led by Irene Papas as Electra, is really strong.  Much of the film is without dialogue and the actors do a great job with telling the story visually.  I really love the way Kakogiannis uses the traditional Chorus of Greek drama.  The entire film is a beautiful representation of the great tragedy.

Electra was released on DVD in 2003 and can still be found at fairly reasonable prices on eBay and Amazon.  The DVD contains only the film and a trailer.  I really wish there were some additional features.